Mr. Unpopular

Schoolhouse Rock.

A talking point has emerged about voting against the COVID-19 relief bill: that the Republicans have committed the cardinal sin of voting against something that is popular.

Roll call quotes DSCC Spokesman Stewart Boss on the topic: “This was a dangerous and harmful vote against a broadly popular COVID-19 relief plan, and we will continue to hold Republicans accountable ” A similar sentiment has been seen among left-leaning media like Business Insider.

I’m old enough to remember when populism was a bad thing. It was only four months ago.

There is validity to standing on principle, and in this case the Republicans have drawn a line in the sand on excess spending, fighting back against pork within the bill. This is a good stance, something which can be reasonably argued and defended. It simply can’t be defended by the Republicans.

Democrats pushed through a popular health care reform bill early in President Obama’s tenure, and the Democratic talking heads predicted widespread losses by the Republicans as a result. The opposite happened. A large swath of sitting Democratic Senators and House members lost their positions as Republicans made gains throughout the country. The Republicans are hoping to duplicate that effect in coming months.

They won’t, because it’s not the same situation. There are three major differences.

The first is that the health care bill was sold with lies. False statements about what the law would and would not do were loudly and frequently disseminated, giving the Republicans something about which to remind the voters. There are no such promises here; the closest thing to an implied promise is that COVID-19 will be vaccinated against, and that is progressing at a pace faster than that which was promised.

The second is that the health care bill produced direct negative results for people. The negative result here is potential inflation, which is related to increased spending. While absolutely a concern, it is more difficult to frame an argument around than someone losing their health insurance or preferred doctor. And that brings us around to the third issue…

The Republicans, given the chance to revoke or heavily diminish the once-popular health care law, merely tweaked it when they had control of the Presidency and both chambers of Congress. It’s difficult to run as problem solvers when they recently had the opportunity to fix something and spent time pursuing frivolous interests instead.

That is the fourth strike against their plan. The Republicans are hard pressed to complain about excessive spending when they have been pushing for expensive and worthless “Space Force” reorgs, useless border walls, and punishing trade wars with other countries.

Principle isn’t something you can turn on and off. The Republicans attempted to claim the populist banner, and a great many of them are clinging to it now. They are going to learn that the only thing which gave many of them the illusion of popularity was the handing out of money, and the Democrats are simply better at that. Those who have abandoned principle must be recognized for their dishonesty.

Meanwhile, it should be recognized that many Democrats who just spent four years complaining about excessive spending are showing that they were not acting from a principled stance, either. There were suggestions that they might have grown as people since the last time they were in charge and might have been serious in their calls for fiscal restraint. They weren’t. They never cared about spending money, they only wanted the excessive spending and new rules to be on the projects that their constituents wanted. This was exemplified by the attempt to raise the national minimum wage within the COVID-19 relief bill.

And, on that, people need to take a look at the “pork-filled” bill as it is currently written. Many of the complaints have been addressed, such as limiting the relief to people below an admittedly high income level. Few complaints were heard from Republicans when President Trump issued checks to all Americans. They only care when it’s politically expedient for them. And while the current plan calls for billions of dollars to be thrown at schools without actually requiring the schools to then reopen – well, that’s a feature, not a bug, when schools are likely a prominent transmission point for the virus. If, upon independent analysis, a given school can’t be opened safely following the necessary upgrades, it shouldn’t be forced to do so. It’s homicidal to insist otherwise.

I’m going to stand on principle. I don’t like excess spending in bills. That doesn’t change dependent upon who’s currently in charge. It doesn’t change dependent on whether the funds are directed toward my legislative desires. It’s a fairly simple position that I find easy to defend. It is, at its core, very anti-populist. I wish there were more people in the federal government who agreed with me.

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About AlienMotives 1991 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.